A shorter post this week, owing not to lack of enthusiasm but rather to the scarcity of specifics about the subjects, as well as to their somewhat unclassifiable nature.
In the late ’60s there seemed to briefly prevail a commercial space where underground rock met the instrumental chops of the studio and professional musicians, a space tinged with hippie sunshine, now sound psychedelia and, dare I say it, even jazz.
It’s a bit hard to pinpoint, exactly. But think the isolated autumnal interludes on any number of the era’s arthouse and b-movie sountracks – everything from the Last of the Ski Bums, The Naked Angels and The Touchables to Chastity, The Trip and The Golden Breed, and many, many others. Think, too, of some the solo instrumental releases from session musicians like Louie Shelton (Touch Me), Big Jim Sullivan (Sitar Beat) and Hal Blaine (Psychedelic Percussion), or the innumerable anonymous studio psychedelic cash-in creations that went even further, and stranger: Fire & Ice Ltd., the Friendsound, the Ceylieb People, the Mesmerizing Eye, the Soulful Strings, the Free Pop Electronic Concept, etc.. Think the ’60s groovy jazz-pop experiments of vibist Lynn Blessing, Hungarian-born guitarist Gabor Szabo, or Szabo-related group the Advancement.
Stylistically, these were examples that could have only happened in the late ‘60s – the trajectories of pop, rock ‘n’ roll, psychedelia, soundtracks, jazz and easy listening would never line up quite the same way again.
Obscurities all, this week’s three selections converge somewhere along the most ragged edge of that ’60s pop-psychedelia-jazz continuum, and are further infused with a healthy amount of garage band do-it-yourself energy. They would have made for great “mellow” interludes in some AIP biker exploitation flick: “Sonny’s Theme,” or “After the Party,” or “Sunset Rest.” Alas, they were destined for a different sort of obscurity.
1. The Fugitives, Wind of Love (Midnight No. MN-101-B)
The Fugitives were a working Georgia band consisting, at least in part, of Calvin Lynch, Tony McMichael and James Tester.
This instrumental was released on Calvin Lynch’s brother Franklin’s Midnight Records. Midnight Records was just one of several tiny labels that Franklin Lynch operated, and that helped to document some of southern Georgia’s ’60s soul, gospel, country and teen rock hopefuls. (Franklin Lynch’s story is covered in greater depth at the superb Georgia Soul blog.)
The Fugitives’ first two 45s were released on Franklin Lynch’s New Talent Records, and recorded at the Middle Georgia Recording Studio – another Franklin Lynch operation – located in the town of Monticello, about one hour southeast of Atlanta. (The Fugitives would function as a sort of house band at the studio, incidentally.) While good, these releases were in the standard ’66-era R&B-inflected garage band vein.
“Wind of Love” was the Fugitives’ third, and final, 45. Recorded later – in 1969 – it sounds a bit like a spontaneous jam, and it probably was. But there is an unusual quality to it, too; at a time when local rock bands nationally were indulging in ever longer, ever more ponderous, passages, “Wind of Love,” is simple, almost spare, in its arrangement.
It’s a record well worth seeking out. Its flip (“Easy Come, Easy Go”) is driving, ahead-of-its-time rock ‘n’ roll with obvious appeal to fans of Hackamore Brick or Loaded-era Velvet Underground.
2. Space Shuttle, She’s On My Mind (Oxala SLR-807)
Space Shuttle was an obscure San Diego outfit that recorded this around 1970, I’d hazard.
The composer on both sides, and brainchild of the group, was one Don Auten (or D.R. Auten), a longtime San Diego-based guitarist, singer, songwriter and composer. A self-taught talent, Auten’s resume extends back to the early ‘70s and encompasses overlapping careers in engineering, design and guitar-building. Auten’s profile is very much of the musician-craftsmen-technician school, evoking a slightly earlier and more individualistic era of southern California music, when guitar playing and building often went hand in hand with an engineering or technical background.
This gorgeous original, recorded when Auten was barely out of his teens, mixes bits of psychedelicized pop and jazz in a unclassifiable, very Aquarian, blend. Its slightly-more-uptempo flipside is cut from similar cloth as well.
Auten’s name surfaced in credits from time to time in ensuing decades, but the ’90s onward have been the more productive time, musically speaking, for Auten, with a generous number of full-length solo guitar releases to his name. D.R. Auten still lives and creates music in the San Diego, and can currently be found playing jazz guitar there with the Gaslamp Jazz Band.
3. Morning-Noon & Night, I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You (Peace [United Under One] 6744)
This is a reverb-flooded, sun-baked, charmingly shambling cover of the Bee Gees’ 1968 hit. I suspect this selection’s origins may lie somewhere in the Midwest or the South, but even that generalization is complete and utter speculation.
Its flipside is another stretched-out instrumental cover – Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” this time. It’s a bit livelier but with similar, somewhat stoned aesthetic.
I’d guess this was recorded around 1970 but, otherwise, nothing.